I grew up on anime. In particular, like every teenager in Asia, I grew up watching, reading and in my case, drawing Dragonball Z. It was easily the most popular series in its time (the equivalent title nowadays would be Naruto). So when I found out there was going to be a live action movie, I was pretty terrified. As it turns out, I was rightfully so. You can see the casting in the above poster.
I’m not particularly active in the local Asian (North) American scene nor do I keep up much with local or national issues related to Asian Americans. But one pet peeve of mine has always been the role of Asians in Hollywood.
In the movie 21 based on the novel “Bringing Down the House” which, in turn, was based on a true story from MIT, the main character was converted from Asian to Caucasian. What was particularly irksome about this casting was that the story clearly states that most members of the blackjack team were minorities. In fact, they needed to be minorities because it was much more convincing for minorities to act like rich heirs playing their parents’ money at the high stakes tables.
The MIT team thrived by choosing BPs [Big Players] who fit the casino mold of the young, foolish, and wealthy. Primarily nonwhite, either Asian or Middle Eastern, these were the kids the casinos were accustomed to seeing bet a thousand bucks a hand.
I vented about that so much that my friend Ernie wrote about it on his group blog, 8 Asians.
Now, they can’t even seem to feel comfortable casting an Asian as a lead on a Japanese animation adaptation about martial arts.
In this regard, I am frequently disappointed about the role of Asians in North America and sometimes wonder if more needs to be done. More disturbing than the answer to questions like, “will we ever see an Asian play a lead role in a movie without having to play an Asian?”, “when will we see an Asian winning an Academy Award for Best Actor or Actress?” or “how long before an Asian President seems likely?” is how infrequently these questions ever seem to be asked.
Stupid, minor, seemingly inconsequential decisions like this casting serve to remind me how narrow minded mainstream Hollywood and its audience can still be—and make me wonder how far out I can extrapolate that generalization.